It’s been a while since Alabama and Ole Miss were this close in the rankings and this year’s meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Rebels marks the best chance the latter team has had in beating what has been long-been heralded as the most dominant squad in college football in ages.

Still, given just how close Alabama’s only two losses of the season have been with its latest being the 32-31 overtime fall to LSU on the road, it’s hard to see a scenario in which this team goes down easy against anyone.

Lane Kiffin has already made clear that he knows what he’s up against with Nick Saban’s team and regardless of the year or the circumstances, one of the most difficult teams to go up against in college football is an angry Alabama.

Here’s a look into 3 things to keep an eye on as the Rebels do just that:

1. Can Ole Miss maintain the same level of success in the ground game?

Freshman star running back Quinshon Judkins has garnered Heisman Trophy attention at the helm of the No. 1 rushing offense in the Southeastern Conference that is also No. 3 in the nation.

The Rebels average 5.6 yards per carry and 267.4 yards per contest. Judkins currently sits statistically as the 11 running back in the country and No. 2 in the SEC with 1,036 rushing yards, plus 13 touchdowns on 180 carries over 9 games. He record 205 rushing yards and 1 touchdown in Ole Miss’ 31-28 win over Texas A&M.

He has rushed for at least 100 yards in his past 3 consecutive contests (205, 111 and 139). Alabama will be perhaps the toughest the Rebels face in this area all season though, as the team is No. 3 in the SEC and No. 11 in the nation with an average of 3.01 yards surrendered per rush and 104 yards given up per game and 9 touchdowns allowed on the ground so far this season.

If Judkins can rush for over 100 yards again in this one, he should be considered a more serious candidate to take home the honors for an award in which so often goes to a quarterback.

2. Can the Rebels keep it rolling on third down?

The Rebels come into this matchup with the No. 9 third-down offense in the nation. The team has converted on 51.2% of its attempts in that area, far outperforming the majority of their counterparts in a statical category that is incredibly important in keeping the chains moving — something they’ll look to keep rolling against Alabama.

While the Alabama defense has lacked some of the physicality we have seen in past years, it is still one to be respected at No. 3 in the SEC and No. 13 in the nation, allowing an average of 4.39 yards per play and an average of 303.6 yards per game with a total of 19 touchdowns surrendered to opposing offenses this season.

Alabama especially presents no easy task in third-down scenarios, ranking No. 2 in the SEC and No. 5 in the nation, allowing a total of 38 third-down conversions out of 137 attempts by opponents this year (.277).

3. Playing a clean game

Alabama has two losses this season and doesn’t look quite like the powerhouse that it did at one point, but this is still a formidable football team compared to the majority of the remainder of the FBS and wins against it do not come easy. Take the fact that Alabama’s losses have come by a combined 4 points and that shows just how close the Tide still are to a perfectly clean record despite also having some close calls earlier in the season like the 20-19 win over the Texas Longhorns back on Sept. 10.

But the key rule in football is to not beat yourself, and it could certainly be argued that the Crimson Tide have played some sloppy football lately.

The team ranks at No. 129 of 131 FBS teams with 8.7 penalties per game, also just 1 spot ahead of dead-last on the list with 78 infractions in the 2022 season. While far ahead of Alabama, in this area, the Rebels aren’t exactly sitting pretty either at No. 75 in the nation in fewest penalties, with a total of 59 penalties for 554 yards this season. That’s an average of 6.5 penalties per game. One of the things of paramount importance run this game for both sides will be playing a clean football game.

Expect this to be one of the most-watched games of the weekend with the Rebels and the Tide set to kick off at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.